Answering Common Questions About Negligence and Injuries Sustained in Florida
Come get your personal injury and accident questions answered on topics including motorcycle accidents, automobile accidents, disability insurance, and workers’ compensation matters. We handle cases throughout Florida concentrating on the greater Central and North Florida area, and we have the in-depth answers you need.
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Do I need a lawyer after a car accident?
All car accidents are different, and each one will have specific circumstances that make to more difficult to get compensation. Some minor car accidents may only require a victim to file an insurance claim, while others may turn into battles with insurers and at-fault drivers.
With this in mind, there are a few ways to help victims determine when they should speak to an attorney after a crash.
How to Determine if You Need an Attorney After a Car Accident
Some victims may be able to handle their cases without legal representation if they're willing to do the legwork and negotiation to settle the claim. However, cases that involve high medical costs and extensive knowledge of the law should definitely be handled by an attorney.
If your case is somewhere in between, you can decide whether you can handle your case based on:
- The extent of your injuries. If your injuries have already healed completely and you won't suffer long-term effects, your case will be much simpler than if you experienced permanent injury. The more extensive your injuries are, the more you could potentially recover in damages—and the more resistance you may face in settling the claim.
- Whether fault is contested. There are many ways to establish fault for a car accident, and victims are often assigned a portion of blame by their insurers. If you cannot prove the other driver was at fault—or at least, that you were not at fault—you may need an attorney’s help to gather evidence and get fair compensation.
- How much you have paid for your losses. Some accident cases settle for a few thousand dollars, while damages for other cases may climb into the millions. If your total expenses for property damage, injuries, lost income, and permanent losses are more than you can afford to lose, you should seek an attorney’s advice.
- Whether your case will go to court. There's a big difference between negotiating with a claims adjuster over the phone and taking your case to court. If you cannot agree to a settlement with your insurance provider, you'll need a lawyer to represent you in court to protect your rights.
At Johnson & Gilbert, P.A., we believe all accident victims deserve to know their rights, even if they don't need a lawyer. That's why our firm provides free consultations to individuals injured by the negligence of another.
Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule your free case evaluation with our Florida injury attorneys.
How much does it cost to hire an injury attorney?
Many injury victims are afraid of pursuing a case because they fear they cannot afford to hire a lawyer. While some attorneys charge an hourly fee for their work, most lawyers use contingency fee agreements for their injury cases. This arrangement allows victims to spend their money on medical treatment and injury recovery rather than paying upfront legal fees.
Contingency Fees for Florida Injury Cases
The basis of contingency fee agreements is an attorney’s pay is "contingent" on recovering damages for the client. If you hire a lawyer under a contingency contract and your case isn't successful, you won't owe anything to the firm. If you win or settle your case, the attorney’s fees are paid directly out of the award.
Benefits of a contingency-fee arrangement include:
- Incentive to maximize recovery. Since your attorney gets a percentage of your settlement, he or she will be more invested in recovering as much compensation as possible in your case.
- No upfront fees. There are a number of upfront costs involved in filing a lawsuit, including filing fees, paying for copies of medical records and other documents, costs of hiring expert witnesses, and other legal expenses. Contingency agreements are often structured to cover all court costs until the case is resolved.
- Less risk to the client. Contingency fees shift some of the burden of winning the case to the attorney, allowing injury victims to get legal help without taking on additional debt.
- Fee approval. Florida law places a fee cap of 33-1/3 percent on out-of-court settlements of up to $1 million, which increases to 40 percent if the case goes to trial. While an attorney may charge any percentage up to the cap, our contingency fee contracts are approved by the Florida Bar Association to ensure that our clients’ rights are protected.
Not only do we take all injury cases on a contingency-fee basis, every consultation with our firm is free. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule your free case evaluation with Johnson & Gilbert, P.A.
Will full coverage car insurance pay for all of my accident losses?
Many drivers assume a “full coverage” policy is all they need to recover after a wreck. However, full coverage car insurance doesn't actually guarantee “full” payment.
Full coverage refers to the combination of several types of insurance that help a driver pay for auto damage—and often doesn't take into account the complete cost of medical and wage losses.
A Full Coverage Policy May Not Cover All Costs of a Florida Crash
Unfortunately, there's not a singular insurance requirement that can be called “full coverage,” and the term may mean various things in different states.
In Florida, most people who purchase the following policies may be said to have “full” coverage:
- State-required no-fault insurance coverage. All motorists are required to carry a minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP) and a minimum of $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL) in order to drive in Florida. If an accident occurs, each driver and insured passenger file claims under his or her insurance policy. Each driver’s plan may also cover additional members of his household, authorized drivers of their vehicles, and passengers who don't have PIP coverage because they don't own a vehicle.
- Collision coverage. While state-required PDL pays for the damage to someone else’s car in a collision, it doesn't cover damage to a driver’s own vehicle. Collision coverage is an optional form of insurance that reimburses any relatable costs after a collision with another driver, striking a sign or pothole, or even backing into a parked car.
- Comprehensive coverage. Just as with full coverage, comprehensive is a somewhat misleading name for this type of insurance. Simply put, comprehensive coverage is an optional policy for damage to your vehicle caused by any non-accident event. This coverage can be used for losses such as fire, vandalism, theft, storm damage, or striking a wild animal.
Optional insurance coverage can make a big difference in the amount of compensation you collect after an accident. For example, while not required by Florida law, policies for bodily injury liability and uninsured motorists offer additional payments for crash-related injuries.
If you're having trouble getting full compensation from an insurer, we can explain your options at no cost to you. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule a free case evaluation.
How can I find motorcycle safety courses in my area?
Florida is one of many states that requires a basic riding safety course in order to obtain a motorcycle license.
However, these courses can be taken for any number of reasons, from learning how to become a safer rider to saving money on your motorcycle insurance.
If you're looking for a motorcycle riding course, they're available through the Florida Rider Training Program (FRTP) offered by the
Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
How Florida Motorcyclists Improve Their Skills
Many studies show that riders who complete official training courses have lower injury and fatality rates than other bikers. Safe riding courses offer a number of advantages to motorcyclists of all skill levels, including adapting to new technologies on upgraded bikes and mastering steering and braking techniques that can save a rider’s life.
Motorcycle riders may learn and improve their riding skills through:
- Required courses. Any person who operates a bike with an engine size greater than 50cc must pass a basic skills test to get a motorcycle license in Florida. New riders of two- or three-wheeled motorcycles must pass the FRTP-authorized Basic RiderCourse (BRC) or Basic RiderCourse updated (BRCu) before a motorcycle endorsement can be issued.
- Improvement courses. If it's been a while since your Basic skills test, you're considering carrying passengers on your bike, or you're looking to ride in new environments, there are additional courses available through the Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF). These classes range from beginner to experienced riding, and offer on-cycle sessions to practice riding and crash avoidance in a controlled environment.
- On-the-road experience. Every ride gives you more practice controlling your bike. Before each one, you should perform a few emergency stops and check the steering in your driveway to be sure you're in control. If you want to practice the skills you learned in a recent course, make some time to visit an empty parking lot or deserted road before taking to the streets.
We're dedicated to providing motorcyclists the assistance and information they need to stay safe on Florida roads. Use our website to learn more about your rights and responsibilities as a motorcyclist, or fill out the form on this page today to schedule your free case evaluation with one of our injury attorneys.
What equipment do I need to ride my motorcycle legally in Florida?
Under Florida law, motorcycle riders may need various kinds of equipment depending on the rider’s age, type of bike, and limits of his or her insurance.
For instance, Florida has an optional helmet law for insured riders over 21. Generally speaking, a biker over 21 who is covered by an insurance policy providing for at least $10,000 in medical benefits for crash injuries isn't required to wear a helmet.
However, since head injuries are the most common cause of motorcyclist deaths, we recommend all riders wear helmets as part of their regular motorcycle safety gear for every ride.
Motorcycle Safety Equipment Required by Law in Florida
Equipment laws usually apply only to standard motorcycles. Motorcycles with 2 brake horsepower or less, bikes with motors with a displacement of 50cc or less, or any motorcycle incapable of traveling more than 30 mph on level road are generally exempt from some of these statutes.
For all other motorcycles, Florida regulations require the following necessary equipment:
- Eye protection. Riders cannot operate motorcycles unless they are wearing eye-protective devices, such as goggles, approved by the Department of Transportation (DOT).
- Helmets for riders under 16. Children under 16 are prohibited from operating mopeds or riding on motorcycles unless wearing securely-fastened protective headgear approved by the DOT.
- Lights and mirrors. Motorcyclists are required to have and use working headlights, tail lights, reflectors, turn signals, and left and right side rear-view mirrors.
- Passenger equipment. If a motorcyclist is carrying a passenger, the bike must be designed for this purpose by providing the passenger with his or her own seat and his or her own footrest.
- License plates. Just as drivers do, a motorcyclist is required to have a state-issued license plate to legally ride on the roads. If a motorcycle is registered to a person under 21, state law requires the license plate to be a different color and design than the standard plates.
If you're not wearing proper protection, or don't have safety gear installed on your bike, you could be pulled over and ticketed for a traffic infraction. Use our website to learn more about your rights and responsibilities as a motorcyclist, or fill out the form on this page today to schedule your free case evaluation with one of our injury attorneys.
What if my work-related injuries prevent me from returning to my former type of employment?
While many employees receive workers’ compensation until they're able to resume work, some injuries may prevent employees from ever returning to their former employment.
One of the lesser-known benefits available through workers’ compensation is vocational retraining services, which allows claimants to learn new skills and transfer into new occupational fields at no cost to them.
Vocational Rehabilitation Under the Florida Workers' Comp System
The Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation Reemployment Services Program helps injured workers who are unable to earn at least 80 percent of their compensation rate after a work-related injury qualify for new employment.
To be eligible, you must have an injury or illness that qualifies for Florida workers’ compensation; be legally able to work in the United States; and have suffered the injury on or after October 1st, 1989.
Benefits of the retraining program include:
- Continuation of financial support. Workers who enroll in a state-sponsored vocational training program can receive workers' compensation benefits for up to 52 weeks as long as they continue to make sufficient academic progress.
- Free tuition and materials. In most cases, the only expense not covered by the State of Florida is transportation to and from required classes. All other services, including tuition, books, vocational counseling, analysis of transferable skills, resume building and job-seeking courses, job placement services, and on-the-job training are provided at no cost to eligible injured workers.
- Job placement assistance. Some locations may offer job market information and placement services as part of their vocational counseling services, while others may refer students to other job placement agencies.
Workers are required to apply for the Reemployment Services Program, including providing any documentation required for eligibility consideration. Before accepting a claimant, staff members conduct a vocational assessment to determine eligibility for any or all of the retraining services.
During the screening process, staff may examine medical and vocational records; perform basic employment testing; provide early job placement assistance; and otherwise determine if an injured worker can perform any duties from his or her former occupation.
If you're unable to return to your former job after a work injury, our qualified Florida workers' compensation attorneys can explain your options in a free case evaluation. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to get started.
How do I qualify for permanent total disability benefits under Florida's workers' compensation system?
If your on-the-job injuries prevent you from returning to your former position and you're unable to work in any capacity, you may be eligible to receive permanent total disability (PTD) benefits through workers’ compensation.
However, it's difficult to qualify for these kinds of benefits, since only claimants with catastrophic injuries or those incapable of employment are eligible for permanent total benefits.
Permanent Total Disability Under the Florida Workers’ Comp System
In order to qualify for permanent disability benefits, you must have suffered a work-related injury that has reached a state of maximum medical improvement (MMI). This means your condition is unlikely to improve even if you undergo more treatment in the future. You must also be unemployed and not physically capable of engaging in any type of sedentary employment.
In Florida, an injured employee may be presumed to be permanently and totally disabled if she or he has suffered:
- A spinal cord injury resulting in severe paralysis of at least one arm, one leg, or the trunk
- Amputation of an arm, a hand, a foot, or a leg equaling the loss of use of that appendage
- Serious brain or closed-head injury resulting in significant sensory disturbances, motor dysfunctions, communication problems, episodic neurological disorders, or complex integrated disturbances of brain function
- Second-degree or third-degree burns on at least 25 percent of the total body surface, or third-degree burns of five percent or more to the face and hands
- Total or industrial blindness
If you haven't suffered one of these conditions, you may still be eligible for PTD benefits if you can prove your injury restrictions prevent you from engaging in sedentary-level employment within a 50-mile radius of your home. In most cases, PTD determination are made by examining the worker’s injury records, restrictions, transferable skills available, and whether he or she engaged in a good faith job search.
If you're awarded PTD, you can receive a payment of two-thirds of your average weekly wages for as long as your disability continues until you reach age 75. Our Florida workers' compensation attorneys can help you gather the necessary evidence to prove your disability claim. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule a consultation at no cost to you.
How can Bodily Injury Liability and Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist coverage help me if I'm involved in a crash?
Car insurance is invaluable to avoid financial hardship after an accident. While the State of Florida requires minimum levels of insurance, these amounts are often far too low to compensate a victim for the full costs of an accident.
It pays to have as much auto coverage as you can afford, especially optional extras such as bodily injury liability or uninsured/underinsured motorist coverage.
Optional Insurance that Can Help After a Florida Car Accident
Florida law requires all drivers to carry two specific types of car insurance:
- A minimum of $10,000 in personal injury protection (PIP)
- A minimum of $10,000 in property damage liability (PDL)
Under Florida’s no-fault system, PIP provides payment for any medical expenses or lost wages a policyholder incurs in an accident. PDL provides payment when a policyholder is responsible for damage to another person’s vehicle or property.
Unfortunately, $10,000 doesn't cover a lot when it comes to the effects of a car accident—and neither type of insurance protects a driver who causes injury to another person. However, optional coverages that can help pay bills after a crash include:
- Bodily injury liability (BIL). This coverage provides payment for injury or death expenses incurred when the policyholder causes an accident. If you're a driver and cause injury to another person, he or she will only be able to seek payment through the limits of your BIL policy.
- Uninsured motorist coverage. The no-fault insurance system works best if all drivers are insured. However, one in every four Florida drivers doesn't have car insurance, making them vulnerable in the event of a crash. An uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) policy is an extra insurance policy that compensates drivers if they're struck by an at-fault driver without coverage, or has too little coverage to pay the full cost of your injuries.
State laws don't require anyone to carry BI or UM coverage. But as you can see, these policies might make a big difference in the amount of compensation a driver receives after a crash.
If you're having trouble getting full compensation from an insurer, we can explain your options at no cost to you. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule your free case evaluation.
Do I have to settle my workers' compensation case?
No one can force you or your insurance provider to settle your workers' compensation case. If you refuse a settlement, you can continue to collect any workers’ compensation payments you remain eligible to receive—and you could even collect these benefits indefinitely.
However, there may be some instances where it could be beneficial to settle a workers' compensation case.
Pros and Cons of Settling Your Workers’ Compensation Case
There's no set rule for calculating the amount you can receive in a workers’ compensation settlement. The total you're offered depends on the severity of your injuries, your ability to go back to work, your unpaid medical bills, and the amount of wages you earned before your accident. No matter how much is offered, a settlement should at least be enough to cover your future medical costs and disability relating to the injury.
So when should you consider accepting a settlement? It always depends on the individual facts of your case. For instance, settling may be a good option if you:
- Want to regain control of your medical treatment. Once your case is settled, you'll be able to treat your injury however you see fit. Rather than following worker’s compensation rules about choosing a doctor, you're free to see any doctor, choose your treatments, and generally have greater control over future medical care for your injury. Of course, you must be sure the amount of the settlement is enough to pay for any future surgeries, rehabilitation, or other care you may need.
- Don't want to go to trial. If any aspects of your claim are in dispute, these will likely be brought up during trial and can affect the amount of compensation you're awarded. Of course, there's always the risk of losing the case in a trial setting, making settlement an attractive option. If something in your case hurts your chances of winning at trial, you may opt for a settlement instead of taking the risk of losing all rights to payment.
On the other hand, there are always drawbacks to accepting a settlement. Some of the most common downsides of settling include:
- Leaving your current employment. Since settling a Florida workers' compensation case means the employee is giving up all rights to future medical care from the insurer, many workers are required to resign their current positions as part of the settlement. This mandate varies depending on the insurer’s and employer’s policies.
- Repaying other benefit providers. If a settlement is accepted, claimants may be asked to repay Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans Benefits, or private health insurance for the portion these providers paid for medical care.
The best way to determine whether you should accept a settlement is to speak to a qualified Florida workers' compensation attorney. If you've been injured at work or are considering settling your claim, our legal team can explain potential options at no cost to you. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule your free case evaluation.
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What does it mean to “settle” my workers' compensation case?
If a workers’ compensation claimant and the insurance company agree on the total value of a claim, they may enter into a settlement. This is an exchange where the insurance carrier issues a lump sum payment to the claimant, and the claimant relinquishes any future workers' compensation claims for the injury.
Insurers may offer a settlement to a claimant at any point, and claimants can accept a settlement at any time. Claimants are also free to refuse settlements, and cannot be forced to settle their cases.
If they don't settle, they may continue to receive workers’ compensation benefits as normal.
What Florida Claimants Need to Know About Workers’ Compensation Settlements
Settlements in workers' compensation benefits aren't like settlements in other injury cases. While most injury claims allow a victim to recover the full costs of an accident, workers' compensation settlements only cover costs that could be recovered under the workers' comp system. Reimbursement for loss of earning capacity, employer or insurer negligence, property losses, or a victim’s pain and suffering aren't recoverable in these types of settlements.
However, workers’ compensation settlements can provide payment for:
- Future injury costs. Insurers usually calculate settlement amounts based on how much a claimant could collect in medical and wage benefits for the injury under the workers' compensation system. As a result, settlement offers are typically made to claimants who require ongoing medical treatment, cannot return to work, or have suffered long-term or permanent disability due to injury.
- Permanent disability benefits. Insurers may be liable for paying disability benefits indefinitely to an injured worker. In these cases, insurers may offer a lump sum to these claimants instead of providing ongoing payment for permanent disability.
- Past-due payments. An insurer may be asked to compensate any unpaid temporary disability payments, unreimbursed medical expenses, or resolve any other injury-related financial disputes as part of a settlement. Also, the insurer may be asked to pay penalties incurred if the company didn't issue benefits on time.
- Vocational rehabilitation. If you're unable to return to your past work, the workers’ compensation insurer may be asked to pay for your job retraining. Florida law requires an employer to pay up to 52 weeks of wage losses as long as the injured worker has attended vocational rehabilitation.
Florida law requires any workers’ comp claimant to be represented by an attorney in order to accept a settlement. At Johnson & Gilbert, P.A., we can estimate what you're owed for your injuries and whether a settlement is the best option for you. Simply fill out the quick contact form on this page today to schedule your free case evaluation.